Give Mike Pence credit for turning a phrase. The “freight train of big government” perfectly encapsulates not just the specific Pelosi bill, but the entire idea of having the federal government dictate an overhaul of the health-care system in the first place. Everything in this 1900-page bill relates to federal diktats rather than consumer choice.
HEIDI COLLINS: Let’s get the Republican reaction to the House Democratic health care proposal that we just heard about. Live from the steps of the Capitol there, Indiana Congressman Mike Pence, is on Capitol Hill for us for more from his perspective and his party’s perspective. You heard the announcement coming from Nancy Pelosi and from Steny Hoyer. Right out of the gate, what are the concerns of the Republican party, because obviously we didn’t see any Republicans there today?
REP. MIKE PENCE: No, you didn’t, Heidi. Thanks for having us on. I was struck by the tone of the press conference. It seemed more like a victory lap after a bill is passed than when one is introduced. But sometimes it’s a good idea to take a victory lap if you’re not sure you’re going to make it to the finish line. I expect Democrats really understand that this $900 billion bill – that could go over a trillion dollars if they add in their fix for the so-called ‘doughnut hole’ or if they added back in the ‘doc fix’ which is a quarter of a trillion dollars over the next ten years – this could go well beyond the president’s threshold number, and it seemed like this is more about building momentum behind what I think the American people really rejected this summer.
This is just another version now lurching out of the back rooms after weeks of closed door negotiations. It just looks like another freight train of big government with more taxes, more mandates and more spending, and that’s not what the American people want in health care reform.
COLLINS: So what you’re saying is that even though it’s under the $900 billion price tag, the president was hoping for that, there could be more costs that would be worked in later before final passage of this? Are you talking about the taxes then that will be put on the wealthy Americans?
REP. PENCE: We’re digging into it just like you are at CNN right now. It’s 2,000 pages long. It includes the word ‘shall’ 3,425 times. This really is a government takeover of health care in America. As the American people dig into this, it will become more obvious that this is a massive new bureaucracy. The taxes you talk about, at least what’s being reported in the news, the so-called surtax, half of that surtax will fall on small business owners filing as individuals in this country.
So it appears for all of the world like a massive government run insurance plan paid for with a freight train of mandates and taxes and bureaucracy, and Republicans are going to continue to raise the curtain on our plan. We really believe that the American people deserve health care reform that allows them to purchase health insurance across state lines, does medical malpractice reform.
COLLINS: There will be some that say, as reported earlier, you know Democrats don’t think they need the Republican support on this.
REP. PENCE: Well, you know, there’s a minority of Republicans in Congress and it’s technically true, but I always tell people a minority in Congress plus the American people equals a majority. The Democrats may be able to pass this government-run insurance plan, that will lead to a government takeover without Republicans, but they can’t pass it without the American people.
I think when the American people get a look at this massive bill – I got to say one positive thing, Heidi, Republicans and a few Democrats were fighting to get at least a 72-hour waiting period on this bill and it looks like we have gotten that. We are going to get at least a week to look at this 2,000-page bill. That’s still going to be tough to digest.
COLLINS: What about the pre-existing condition idea? That is also in there.
REP. PENCE: Yeah. You know what? That’s something that I think could be a part of bipartisan consensus. My own family had to go on a state guarantee fund in Indiana when I lost my job about 15 years ago and my wife was pregnant. We can work together in a way that’s fiscally responsible to deal with pre-existing conditions, but a massive new government-run insurance plan paid for with hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes is not the answer.
COLLINS: Everyone is going to be looking at it very, very closely. It’s many pages long. We wanted to make sure that we give equal time here the best that we can. Representative Mike Pence, Republican from Indiana. Thanks so very much for your time.
Of course, the better analogy is Amtrak rather than freight trains, which loses $32 per passenger now. They haven’t been able to reform Amtrak despite knowing about the problem for decades. For that matter, the US Postal Service still works, too.